by H Coleman · 2009 · Cited by 3 — Parents and Caregivers at nctsn/nctsn_assets/pdfs/caring/sexualbehaviorproblems.pdf.) Sexual behavior problems include any act that:.
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Information for Parents and Caregivers Sexual Development and Behavior in Children What do you do? Every day, parents around the world are faced with situations like this. Being caught off-guard by young children™s self-exploration and curiosity about body parts and sexual issues is one of the uncomfortable realities of parenting, and can raise a host of troubling questions, such as, fiIs my child normal?fl fiShould I be worried?fl fiWhat should I say?fl Although talking with children about bodily changes and sexual matters may feel awkward, providing children with accurate, age-appropriate information is one of the most important things parents can do to make sure children grow up safe, healthy, and secure in their bodies. Sexual Development and Behavior in Young Children: The Basics Like all forms of human development, sexual development begins at birth. Sexual development includes not only the physical changes that occur as children grow, but also the sexual knowledge and beliefs they come to learn and the behaviors they show. Any given child™s sexual knowledge The child™s age 1-3What the child observes (including the sexual behaviors of family and friends) 4What the child is taught (including cultural and religious beliefs concerning sexuality and physical boundaries) fiYoung people do not wake up on their thirteenth birthday, somehow transformed into a sexual being overnight. Even young children are sexual in some form.fl 5Heather Coleman, PhD & Grant Charles, PhD In partnership with:

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caringforK DS: Sexual Development and Behavior in Children – Information for Parents & Caregivers April 2009Very young and preschool-aged children (four or younger) are naturally immodest, and may display openŠand occasionally startling–curiosity about other people™s bodies and bodily functions, such as touching women™s breasts, or wanting to watch when grownups go to the bathroom. Wanting to be naked (even if others are not) and showing or touching private parts while in public are also common in young children. They are curious about their own bodies and may quickly discover that touching certain body parts feels nice. (For more on what children typically do at this and other ages, see Table 1 .) As children age and interact more with other children (approximately ages 4Œ6), they become more aware of the differences between boys and girls, and more social in their exploration. In addition to exploring their own bodies through touching or rubbing their private parts (masturbation), they may begin fiplaying doctorfl and copying adult behaviors such as kissing and holding hands. As children become increasingly aware of the social rules governing sexual behavior and language (such as the importance of modesty or which words are considered finaughtyfl), they may try to test these rules by using naughty words. They may also ask more questions about sexual matters, such as where babies come from, and why boys and girls are physically different. (For more, see Table 1 .)Table 1: Common Sexual Behaviors in Childhood 1, 3, 6 Age Uncommon/Problematic Behaviors Preschool children(less than 4 years) Exploring and touching private parts, in public and in private Rubbing private parts (with hand or against objects) Showing private parts to others Trying to touch mother™s or other women™s breasts Removing clothes and wanting to be naked Attempting to see other people when they are naked or undressing (such as in the bathroom) Asking questions about their ownŠand others™Šbodies and bodily functions Talking to children their own age about bodily functions such as fipoopfl and fipeefl Young Children(approximately 4-6 years) Purposefully touching private parts (masturbation), occasionally in the presence of others Attempting to see other people when they are naked or undressing Mimicking dating behavior (such as kissing, or holding hands) Talking about private parts and using finaughtyfl words, even when they don™t understand the meaningExploring private parts with children their own age (such as fiplaying doctorfl, fiI™ll show you mine if you show me yours,fl etc.) School-Aged Children(approximately 7-12 years) Purposefully touching private parts (masturbation), usually in private Playing games with children their own age that involve sexual behavior (such as fitruth or darefl, fiplaying family,fl or fiboyfriend/girlfriendfl) Attempting to see other people naked or undressing Looking at pictures of naked or partially naked people Viewing/listening to sexual content in media (television, movies, games, the Internet, music, etc.) Wanting more privacy (for example, not wanting to undress in front of other people) and being reluctant to talk to adults about sexual issues Beginnings of sexual attraction to/interest in peers 2

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The National Child Traumatic Stress Network Once children enter grade school (approximately ages 7Œ12), their awareness of social rules increases and they become more modest and want more privacy, particularly around adults. Although self touch (masturbation) and sexual play continue, children at this age are likely to hide these activities from adults. Curiosity about adult sexual behavior increasesŠparticularly as puberty approachesŠand children may begin to seek out sexual content in television, movies, and printed material. Telling jokes and fidirtyfl stories is common. Children approaching puberty are likely to start displaying romantic and sexual interest in their peers. (For more, see Table 1 .)Although parents often become concerned when a child shows sexual behavior, such as touching another child™s private parts, these behaviors are not uncommon in developing children. Most sexual play is an expression of children™s natural curiosity and should not be a cause for concern or alarm. In general, fitypicalfl childhood sexual play and exploration: Occurs between children who play together regularly and know each other well Occurs between children of the same general age and physical size Is spontaneous and unplanned Is infrequent Is voluntary (the children agreed to the behavior, none of the involved children seem uncomfortable or upset) Is easily diverted when parents tell children to stop and explain privacy rules Some childhood sexual behaviors indicate more than harmless curiosity, and are considered sexual behavior problems. Sexual behavior problems may pose a risk to the safety and well-being of the child and other children. (For more on this topic, see the National Child Traumatic Stress Network™s factsheet, Understanding and Coping with Sexual Behavior Problems in Children: Information for Parents and Caregivers at f.) Sexual behavior problems include any act that: Is clearly beyond the child™s developmental stage (for example, a three-year-old attempting to kiss an adult™s genitals) Involves threats, force, or aggression Involves children of widely different ages or abilities (such as a 12-year-old fiplaying doctorfl with a four-year-old) Provokes strong emotional reactions in the childŠsuch as anger or anxiety Responding to Sexual Behaviors Situations like the one described at the beginning of this handout can be unsettling for parents. However, these situations also offer excellent opportunities to assess how much children understand and to teach important information about sexual matters. . To do this, it™s important to stay calm. Staying calm will allow you to make clear decisions about what you say and/or do, rather than acting on strong emotions. 3

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caringforK DS: Sexual Development and Behavior in Children – Information for Parents & Caregivers April 2009Coping with Your Own Reactions To remain composed, try taking a long, deep breath, counting to ten, or even closing the door and stepping away for a couple of minutes before saying anything. In the case described above, a parent might calmly tell the children that it™s time to get dressed and then ask each child to go to a different room in the house. After taking a few moments to collect his or her thoughtsŠand to consult with a spouse or partner if feeling very unsettledŠ the parent could then talk to each child one-on-one. When talking to children about sexual behaviors, it™s important to maintain a calm and even tone of voice and to ask open-ended questions as much as possible, so the children can tell what happened in their own words, rather than just answering yes or no. So, in this case, a parent might ask each child: What were you doing? How did you get the idea? How did you learn about this? How did you feel about doing it? In the opening scenario, all of the children involved were about the same age, had been playmates for some time, and seemed to be enjoying their game. So, it™s likely the children were just curious and playing around and that no one was upset about what happened. If you encounter a situation where the children are a little embarrassed but otherwise not distressed, this can present an ideal opportunity for teaching the children about healthy boundaries and rules about sexual behavior. Educating Children about Sexual Issues Just because a behavior is typical doesn™t mean the behavior should be ignored. Often, when children participate in sexual behavior it indicates that they need to learn something. Teach what the child needs to know, given the situation . In this case, for example, the parent might teach the children that it™s okay to be curious about other people™s bodies, but that private parts should be kept private, even with friends. Although children usually respond well when parents take the time to give them correct information and answer their questions, it is important to provide information that is appropriate to the child™s age and developmental level . In Table 2 safety messages for children of various ages. Keep in mind that you do not need to bombard children with information all at once. Let the situationŠand the child™s questionsŠguide the lessons you share. The important thing is to let children know that you are ready to listen and to answer whatever questions they may have. Too often, children get the majority of their sexual education from other children and from media sources such as television shows, songs, movies, and video games. Not only is this information often wrong, it may have very little to do with sexual values that parents want to convey. Explicit adult sexual activities are sometimes found during fifamily timefl television shows, in commercials, and on cartoon/children™s Controlling media exposure and providing appropriate alternatives is an important part of teaching children about sexual issues. Get to know the rating systems of games, movies, and television shows and make use of the parental controls available through many internet, cable, and satellite providers. Myth: Talking about sex with my children will just encourage them to become sexually active. Fact: In a recent survey of American teens, 9 out of 10 teens said it would be easier to delay sexual activity and prevent unwanted pregnancy if they were able to have fimore open, honest conversationsfl with their parents on these topics. 7 When you talk honestly with your children about sexual issues, you can give them the knowledge and skills they need to keep safe and to make good decisions about relationships and intimacy. 4

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The National Child Traumatic Stress Network However, don™t assume that just by activating those controls you will be taking care of the situation. It™s very important for you to be aware of what your children are watching on television and online , and make time to watch television with them. When appropriate, you can use this time as a springboard to talk about sexual or relationship issues, and to help children develop the skills to make healthy decisions about their behavior and relationships. Preschool children (less than 4 years) Basic Information Boys and girls are different Accurate names for body parts of boys and girls Babies come from mommies Rules about personal boundaries (for example, keeping private parts covered, not touching other children™s private parts) Give simple answers to all questions about the body and bodily functions.Safety Information The difference between fiokayfl touches (which are comforting, pleasant, and welcome) and finot okayfl touches (which are intrusive, uncomfortable, unwanted, or painful) Your body belongs to you Everyone has the right to say finofl to being touched, even by grownups No oneŠchild or adult–has the right to touch your private parts It™s okay to say finofl when grownups ask you to do things that are wrong, such as touching private parts or keeping secrets from mommy or daddy There is a difference between a fisurprisefl–which is something that will be revealed sometime soon, like a presentŠand a fisecret,fl which is something you™re never supposed to tell. Stress that it is never okay to keep secrets from mommy and daddyWho to tell if people do finot okayfl things to you, or ask you to do finot okayfl things to them Young Children (approximately 4-6 years) Basic Information Boys™ and girls™ bodies change when they get older. Simple explanations of how babies grow in their mothers™ wombs and about the birth process. Rules about personal boundaries (such as, keeping private parts covered, not touching other children™s private parts) Simple answers to all questions about the body and bodily functionsTouching your own private parts can feel nice, but is something done in private Safety Information Sexual abuse is when someone touches your private parts or asks you to touch their private parts It is sexual abuse even if it is by someone you know Sexual abuse is NEVER the child™s fault If a stranger tries to get you to go with him or her, run and tell a Who to tell if people do finot okayfl things to you, or ask you to do finot okayfl things to them School-Aged Children (approximately 7-12 years) Basic Information What to expect and how to cope with the changes of puberty (including menstruation and wet dreams)Basics of reproduction, pregnancy, and childbirth Risks of sexual activity (pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases) Basics of contraception Masturbation is common and not associated with long term problems but should be done in private Safety Information Sexual abuse may or may not involve touch How to maintain safety and personal boundaries when chatting or meeting people online How to recognize and avoid risky social situations Dating rules 5

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caringforK DS: Sexual Development and Behavior in Children – Information for Parents & Caregivers April 2009For You BooksHaffner, Debra W. (2008). . New York: Newmarket Press. Author Debra Haffner provides practical advice and guidelines to help you talk to children and early adolescents about sexuality. Includes techniques to identify and examine your own sexual values so that you can share these messages with your children. Hickling, Meg. (2005). . Kelowna, BC, Canada: Wood Lake Publishing, Inc. This update of the bestselling is packed with no-nonsense, accurate, and gently funny information on sexuality and sexual health. Author Meg Hickling dispels misconceptions and unhealthy beliefs about sex, provides guidelines on how to talk with children at various stages of their development, and offers examples of how to answer tough questions. Roffman, Deborah M. (2002). . New York: Perseus Publishing. Sexuality and family life educator Deborah Roffman provides clear, sensible guidelines on how awkward questions about sexuality, conception, and birth. Roffman, Deborah M. (2001). . New York: Perseus Publishing. This book is designed to inspire honest communication about sexuality between parents and their children. It focuses on the core skills parents need in order to interpret and respond to virtually any question or situation, with the goal of empowering children through knowledge. Online Resources The Committee for Children offers tips on how to teach children about safe touch ( /) as well as general information on how to talk to your child about sexual issues ( /).The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States™ (SIECUS) websites contain a wealth of information and resources to help you talk with children about sexuality and related issues ( http://www.familiesaretalking.or g and http://www.lafamiliahabla.or g). For Your Children BooksBell, Ruth. (1998). . New York: TimesBooks. Designed to help young people make informed decisions about their lives, provides answers to tough questions about how the body works and about sex, love, and relationships. It™s packed with illustrations, checklists, and resources, as well as stories, poems, and cartoons from hundreds of teenagers. Brown, Laurie Krasny. (2000). . New York: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. . This colorful and chatty book uses illustrations, cartoons, and very accessible text to explain the basics of anatomy, reproduction, pregnancy, and birth. Also discusses feelings, touching, and privacy. Hansen, Diane. (2007). . Redondo Beach, CA: Empowerment Productions. . This short, easy-to-read book uses colorful illustrations and catchy rhymes to teach children that no oneŠrelative, friend or neighborŠhas a right to touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. If you are unsure of what to say to your child about sexual issues, don™t be afraid to do some research. In addition to talking to your pediatrician or doctor, you can turn to online resources such as the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States™ (SIECUS) websites (listed below). There are also several excellent books available on talking to children about sexual issues, as well as books that you and your children can read together. (For a partial listing, see Table 3 .)6

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References 1. Friedrich, W. N., Fisher, J., Broughton, D., Houston, M., & Shafran, C. R. (1998). Normative sexual behavior in children: a contemporary sample. , (4), E9.2. Hornor, G. (2004). Sexual behavior in children: normal or not? , (2), 57-64. 3. Hagan, J. F., Shaw, J. S., & Duncan, P. (Eds.). (2008). Theme 8: Promoting healthy sexual development and sexuality. In (pp. 169-176). Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics. 4. Friedrich, W. N., Grambsch, P., Broughton, D., Kuiper, J., & Beilke, R. L. (1991). Normative sexual behavior in children., (3), 456-464. 5. Coleman, H., & Charles, G. (2001). Adolescent sexuality: A matter of condom sense. , (4), 17-18. 6. American Academy of Pediatrics (2005). . Elk Grove, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved February 15, 2009 from l7. Albert, B. (2004). . Washington, DC: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Retrieved March 1, 2009, from f8. National Guidelines Task Force. (2004). . New York, NY: Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. Retrieved March 1, 2009, from fThis product was developed by the Child Sexual Abuse Committee of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network in partnership with the National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth. This project was funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human

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